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Education in the use of reason


Swimming against the Current


Dr. Jesus P. Estanislao

Dr. Jesus P. Estanislao

If the first strategic priority is for all of us, Filipinos, to be educated in love such that we are self-sacrificing in doing virtuous deeds each day to favor the general welfare of all our people, then this has to be followed by a second priority. This one is for us to be educated in the use of our reason: we all need to be much more knowledgeable; but above all, we need to be “using our coconut” properly, always putting reason above our feelings and sentiments, and using our head along with our hearts.

And when it comes to both head and heart, knowledge and love, we soon find that there are no limits. There can always be more: there is always so much more to know, and there are so many more ways to show and prove our love. Unlike the natural resources that we can put to use, whose limits many economists have been fretting over, when it comes to head and heart, the boundaries are always further out. It is for this reason that we can exceed ourselves. We can always go much further than we sometimes imagine or dream ourselves to be capable of.

This is how Paul Dumol reminds us of Rizal´s call for exceeding ourselves every day:

“In his third year of exile, Rizal’s mother requested him to write her a poem. The subject matter of the poem (Miretiro) became his rediscovery of the key to the development of the youth, first intuited by him in his first year in college. The key was to challenge the youth to exceed themselves, something he re-discovered when he taught some twenty boys in Dapitan high school subjects. This challenge was to be made in the expectation that, one day, social life following reason would triumph over social life following brute force in the Philippines.”

Indeed, when we think of Dream Philippines, the first thought that comes up is: the development of our country. But our country gets developed, if we as a people develop ourselves, and people development entails exceeding ourselves, i.e. becoming much better than we at first think would be possible.

But in what area—other than in love for country and love for God, expressed in concrete deeds every day as we go about our daily, ordinary duties—do we need to exceed ourselves? The answer is that specified by Rizal, and highlighted by Dumol: We need to exceed ourselves in the use of reason, such that “reason would triumph over social life,” and we may add, over our economic and political life as well.

Use of reason can mean many things to different people. That is why, as a people, we need to hang on to truth, the natural domain of reason. Once we make this fundamental choice in favor of the truth, then we look for the general principles and fundamental guidelines for our decisions and actions. The truth, with its general principles and guidelines, provides a light that can lift us to a higher level of human-ness, thereby allowing us to go beyond our normal, natural limitations. By going for this higher level, we then develop ourselves.

The alternative, as Rizal pointed out, would be a social (as well as economic and political) life in which brute force triumphs. This is the nightmare scenario we have to prevent our country from falling into: where dog eats dog, where might is right, and where power is used for purposes other than the long-term common good of our people. This nightmare scenario is not Rizal´s dream for our beloved Philippines.


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